Mr Speaker, it is an absolute privilege to deliver my second Budget Address to this House as Minister for Business, Tourism and The Port.
During the course of my contribution, I will report on the projects undertaken over the past financial year and I will set out my Ministry’s objectives for this financial year.
Mr Speaker, let me start with Tourism and by saying that the Government was delighted to announce the appointment of Mr Kevin Bossino as the new CEO of the Gibraltar Tourist Board. Mr Bossino will take up his post on 1st September 2022.
Mr Bossino has worked in the tourism industry internationally having worked in nine different countries in Europe and Asia.
He is currently Vice President (Operations) for the global hotel chain Accor, overseeing the Singapore and South Malaysia regions comprising of 27 hotels (over 5000 rooms). He commenced his career in Gibraltar at the Rock Hotel and subsequently moved overseas, kick-starting his international career in Europe moving to Venice, London and Spain, before setting his sights on Asia where he spent most of his time in Hong Kong and Singapore whilst experiencing the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia.
Mr Speaker as I have already said publicly I never expected that a Gibraltarian with exceptional tourism experience would be selected having the right credentials and with over thirty years of working abroad in this field. Kevin has worked for some of the top hotel chains internationally and has huge experience in providing high level customer care.
Mr Speaker I look forward to working with him in the ensuing months and years.
Mr Speaker let me say that my aim for Tourism during the last year and going forward is to continue making Gibraltar visible to tourists and the wider market. The Government has had a long held view that its presence at different trade fairs to promote Gibraltar as a tourism destination is, in particular, subject to the criteria of value for money. This is all the more relevant in the context of the huge financial cost of the COVID-19 pandemic. It may change from year to year depending on the circumstances of the moment. There are occasions when the important activity is not exhibiting in a trade fair as such, but rather the meetings with key decisions-makers that are arranged around it. I have also met senior executives when their diaries have permitted on different occasions. A lot of work goes on, Mr Speaker, behind the scenes and numerous conversations take place but, of course, these are all commercial in confidence.
In September I participated in a U.K Tourism conference hosted by Travel Weekly. I addressed a high level delegation of U.K tourism leaders at a conference billed ‘The future of Tourism.’ The conference also discussed topics such as sustainable growth for the future and facing a new reality after COVID.
This was the first face to face travel industry event in the U.K of this kind since the pandemic. It offered the perfect opportunity to network with senior players in the tourism industry. At this event guest speakers included Gary Wilson, Chief Executive of EasyJet Holidays, Steve Heapy, Chief Executive of Jet 2 and executives from the Cruising industry. Mr Speaker, Tourism is an extremely competitive industry and its imperative that the Gibraltar brand is kept at the forefront of people’s minds. It is extremely important for Gibraltar to be seen and share its experiences through the pandemic, while also relaying to the trade how the destination is ready to build forward.
The feedback that I get from the local shareholders is extremely positive. I am asked to continue marketing Gibraltar proactively and energetically and this is what I intend to do.
In October, the Gibraltar Tourist Board exhibited at the Meetings Show in London. Mr Speaker, this was the first live edition of this international event in over 2 years. The meetings and event industry is one of the most lucrative sectors of tourism globally and having been hard hit by the pandemic is a key area for rebuild. The Gibraltar stand worked over 40 pre-scheduled meetings across 2 days.
Mr Speaker it is important for Gibraltar to show a physical presence at this show as the market re-emerges. Business relationships with meeting planners take time to establish and it is crucial that we are able to start building business for the years ahead.
Also in October I attended the Routes World Conference in Milan. Mr Speaker, World Routes is the annual meeting place for airlines, airports, tourism authorities and other aviation stakeholders. It is where the world’s airlines network planners meet with tourism authorities and their airports in order to evaluate existing air services and explore the potential for new ones.
At the event I participated in a Tourism Round Table discussion. Several points were discussed like the importance of tourism in the economy, how destinations can help bring tourists confidence back and how Gibraltar has coped during the pandemic, in particular how dedicated our people were in keeping the virus at bay and the excellent vaccine rollout.
I also took the opportunity to host a dinner for the British Airways team attending the conference.
The aviation industry has taken a battering, Mr Speaker, so they are even more careful with new business.
We need to showcase Gibraltar’s case at every opportunity possible.
Mr Speaker, this is an extremely important stage for Gibraltar and it is imperative that we should be present. I held numerous meetings with prospective airlines wanting to fly to Gibraltar. It is not easy to attract new airlines and open up new routes, but we will always keep pursuing. Connectivity and growth go hand in hand. My aim continues to be putting Gibraltar on the map and making sure our brand name is at the forefront of people’s minds.
The event provided in particular a great opportunity to discuss Gibraltar and aviation in general with some of the top executives of the three most important low cost airlines in Europe.
Mr Speaker I will continue to carry on engaging with all airlines that fly to Gibraltar and prospective airlines who one day might want to fly to Gibraltar.
As we will have heard over the last few weeks, the airline industry is going through a very difficult time with cancellations due to a shortage of staff and huge demand.
Only last week in Kigali, where I was attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, I met the CEO of Heathrow Airport. He told me that the current times were extremely challenging and never experienced before.
So, Mr Speaker, it is even more important now to be present and network with all airlines possible.
Mr Speaker in November I attended the World Travel Market in London. The WTM is the leading global conference for the international travel industry and is an excellent opportunity for tourism representatives to meet and conduct business.
Gibraltar had a stand where it was able to showcase our tourism product and allowed us to host meetings with industry executives during the event.
The conference gave me the opportunity to meet executives from the travel trade. Also I was interviewed by the prestigious Travel Weekly magazine and by Mr Simon Calder, the leading travel journalist.
I also had the opportunity to meet with Mr David Dingle, Chairman of Carnival cruises U.K and share the Government’s vision on cruising with one of the most crucial companies in the sector.
Mr Speaker, I was delighted that my U.K counterpart the Hon Nigel Huddleston Minister for Tourism, Heritage and Sport visited our stand and I was able to brief him on Gibraltar, how it had fared over the last 18 months and my plans for the future.
I also had the opportunity of meeting with the Minister for Tourism of Israel, Mr Yoel Razvozov, where joint initiatives were touched upon.
Mr Speaker, our participation at this event was extremely successful as we managed to keep on raising our profile in the U.K, which is the main source market for overnight tourism in Gibraltar. We have made tremendous inroads in highlighting what our destination has to offer.
Mr Speaker, in February this year I attended CONNECT Route Development Forum in Tampere, Finland. I held a series of meetings with airlines, airports and tourism officials. At the event, I formed part of a panel discussion titled ‘Tourism Recovery Strategies’ where I was questioned on the work that had been done during COVID, plans for the future, the E.U treaty and specifically on how the E.U treaty would affect Gibraltar International Airport, if aviation formed part of it.
Mr Speaker in March I hosted a working breakfast for some members of the travel press at Gibraltar House in London. Attending the briefing were travel writers from Business Traveller, Conde Nast Traveller, BA Highlife, Travel Bulletin, amongst others. I was also interviewed by the editor of Business Traveller Tom Otley.
Mr Speaker, it is important to talk face to face with the U.K travel press and to keep them abreast on what is happening in Gibraltar. As I mentioned a few moments ago, the U.K is our main source market for overnight tourism and our hotels, hospitality and retail trade will benefit from this. I hope to host another similar event with different journalists soon. The interest in Gibraltar is at an all-time high but we cannot be complacent. We need to keep at it always making sure that the Gibraltar brand name is distinctly visible in the high echelons of the tourism industry.
I also hosted a marketing event in Edinburgh with travel agents and the local Scottish press. The event created a lot of interest with many travel agents now intending to push Gibraltar as a city break. Mr Speaker we live in an extremely competitive market and these bespoke marketing events is the way forward.
Mr Speaker, towards the end of April, I attended Seatrade Cruise Global in Miami. I was supposed to attend two years ago but this was postponed due to the pandemic.
Seatrade Global is the world’s largest annual cruise industry gathering. The event is where the cruise industry’s most influential leaders, from top cruise line executive to port leaders, have been coming together for over 30 years.
I held numerous meetings with the largest cruise companies with the discussions primarily focusing on increasing cruise calls in the short term. Other projects were also discussed; these being based on developing Gibraltar as the port of choice in the Mediterranean. I was also interviewed by various international cruise press.
Mr Speaker I was able to put across Gibraltar’s ambition as we try to cement our position as the jewel of the Mediterranean. Out port is considered as one of the most important in the area however there is strong competition with other destinations. Our presence at these events is imperative if we really want to promote our port as a premier cruise destination. Business does not come instantaneously, as some might immaturely fantasize, it takes time, Mr Speaker, and we will keep on working at full throttle to achieve this.
Mr Speaker, in February we announced that the Gibraltar Tourist Board had been confirmed as a new long term associate partner of Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) U.K and Ireland. CLIA is the world’s largest cruise industry trade association providing a unified voice and leading authority of the global cruise community. On behalf of its members, CLIA supports policies and practices that foster a secure, healthy and sustainable cruise ship environment, promoting positive travel experiences for more than 30 million passengers who have cruised annually. CLIA membership includes the world’s most prestigious ocean, river and specialty cruise lines; a highly trained and certified travel agent community; and widespread industry stake holders, including ports and destination, ship development, suppliers and business services. CLIA represents 95% of the world’s ocean going cruise capacity, as well as 54,000 travel agents and 15,000 of the largest travel agencies in the world.
Therefore, Mr Speaker the partnership with CLIA will enhance Gibraltar’s brand awareness across the region bringing them into CLIA’s wider community of cruise lines, travel agents and stakeholders.
As part of the agreement with CLIA, the Gibraltar Tourist Board sponsored CLIA’s flagship main conference in Southampton at the end of May. This event received trade exposure via CLIA’s website, newsletter and yearbook.
Mr Speaker there is no doubt that the cruise sector is extremely important to the Gibraltar economy and I look forward to working with CLIA in fulfilling our goal to make Gibraltar the port of choice in the Mediterranean.
Mr Speaker in December, Gibraltar will host the CAPA 2022 World Aviation Summit. The two-day summit will draw aviation and travel representatives from around the world, supported with a live stream of the event available to those unable to attend in person. This is an extremely prestigious event in the world’s aviation calendar. It is expected that the top airline executives will be visiting Gibraltar.
Mr Speaker I look forward to welcoming delegates from all over the world and working with CAPA to make this Summit a huge success. Mr Speaker, this will bring unprecedented exposure for Gibraltar in the aviation industry.
Mr Speaker, during the year I have met with the Moroccan Community Association. The Moroccan community is an integral part of the Gibraltarian family and until recently were having an extremely difficult time in visiting family in Morocco during the pandemic, in particular due to the lack of sea and air links. Also Morocco was on a prolonged lockdown.
Mr Speaker, the Government has left no stone unturned in trying to achieve air and sea links with Morocco. In November last year I held a series of meetings with a number of airlines in Casablanca but unfortunately the airlines had been forced, as a result of financial considerations due to the pandemic, to cancel a number of their less profitable routes. We will continue working on, albeit in a difficult situation. That said, we continued to work in trying to resume a sea link and together with FRS we were able to announce the resumption of the ferry service between Gibraltar and Tangier in April. This had only been possible now after the opening of Morocco’s sea borders and permission being granted by the Moroccan authorities. Mr Speaker, I am extremely pleased for our Moroccan community who are now able to visit family in Morocco, as they have suffered the most without the service.
Mr Speaker, links with Morocco are extremely important and I look forward to new opportunities after Brexit, especially those linked to tourism and business.
Mr Speaker, as Honorable members are no doubt aware, the cruising industry was hard hit due to the pandemic with most cruises cancelled and ships returning to their home ports. Throughout the pandemic, we were in constant communication with all cruise operators.
In August last year, I was delighted to welcome the first official cruise call since the beginning of the pandemic. Wind Surf from Windstar Cruises arrived in Gibraltar on the 13th August 2021. Gibraltar was included in its itinerary as part of their Mediterranean Cruise. A limited amount of passengers were allowed to disembark due to COVID-19 protocols at the time.
Mr Speaker may I remind the House that at the time the Gibraltar Government did not have any restrictions for tourists to visit Gibraltar at large, as was detailed in our Cruise Safe and Secure booklet. It was cruise companies themselves which had their own procedures which restricted passengers going ashore unless they had a pre booked tour.
September saw the gradual return of cruise liners to Gibraltar. On 6th September the Spirit of Discovery arrived in Gibraltar with some 400 passengers disembarking to visit local tourist sites on pre booked ‘bubble’ tours.
Towards the end of September saw the return of cruise passengers in Main Street with the arrival of the Marella Explorer. This was the first commercial cruise since before the start of the pandemic that allowed passengers to disembark into the town centre without restricting them to ‘bubble excursions’. Mr Speaker, there is no doubt this was a welcome return for traders who had missed out on the cruise passenger clients during the previous 18 months.
Mr Speaker in 2021 Gibraltar received 44 cruise ships of which 5 were inaugural visits.
The industry is now picking up with 185 cruises scheduled for this year and 163 booked for 2023 as things stand at the moment.
Mr Speaker this year alone we will be welcoming 21 new cruise ships to the Rock. January saw the arrival of Ms Iona the new flagship of P&O Cruises, a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation PLC. It is one of the largest cruise ships, with a capacity of 5200 passengers and 1800 crew and also their first LNG powered vessel. On this occasion the ship was carrying 2484 passengers and 1657 crew on board.
On the 12th April we welcomed two inaugural cruise calls to Gibraltar on the same day. The Le Bougainville is the third ship of the Explorer class of cruise ships operated by Ponant, and the Costa Deliziosa is owned by Carnival Corporation and operated by Costa Crociere.
Mr Speaker, more recently in May, Gibraltar saw the arrival of the Valiant Lady on its first inaugural call. This is a new ship from the new cruise company Virgin Voyages and will be calling here five times this year.
Mr Speaker, I am delighted to see the quick recovery we are making with cruise calls. This shows the popularity of Gibraltar as a port of call but it also demonstrates the results of the hard-work being done by the Government to get the cruising sector back on track. The Government is committed to the cruising industry for Gibraltar and I will continue to work with itinerary planners to make sure Gibraltar is included in future cruises. The opposition spokesman for tourism will be glad to hear that I will keep on working energetically, engaging with cruise executives worldwide to grow cruising as I know how important it is to our economy. I do not expect any compliments from him, Mr Speaker, and no doubt, he will resort to his usual toxic style of opposition which has included the use of unparliamentarily language.
Mr Speaker, event led tourism will continue to be a priority and hope to see more international events return to the Rock. There are at present discussions being held and I look forward to be able to make some announcements during the course of the next 12 months.
Finally, Mr Speaker, I believe we are now turning the tide and Gibraltar’s tourism market is now looking at a brighter future after the effects of the pandemic over the last 2 years.
Mr Speaker may I take this opportunity to thank the staff at the GTB for their support during the year.
2021 saw a gradual slow recovery in traffic. The successful roll out of the vaccination programme resulted in Gibraltar being added to the United Kingdom’s list of Green Countries.
We saw growth increasing from May through to December with this continuing into the first quarter of 2022 and by the end of 2021, passenger figures totalled 262,522 an increase of 41% over 2020.
The capacity for 2022 is expected to be very close to what it stood at in 2019 before the pandemic started. I am sure all airports worldwide would be delighted with this outcome.
Mr Speaker I would like to say a few words about the suspension of flights by Wizz Air and also by Eastern Airways. I can only imagine the Hon Mr Bossino rubbing his hands together with glee when this announcement was made because deep down he doesn’t wish the Government to succeed. Let me remind the Honorable member that Wizz Air announced its decision to suspend the Luton Gibraltar route “as a result of the uncertain outlook for travel at the moment due to COVID restrictions we have had to make a number of adjustments to our schedule. This decision has not been made lightly. We are constantly reviewing our schedule and would be keen on re-entering the Gibraltar market when it makes most business sense for us, at the earliest opportunity”.
Mr Speaker, we need to realise that we were facing unprecedented times as Covid is still lurking in the background and all this causes huge uncertainty. As a consequence, all airlines were constantly looking at their route networks and trying their best to protect their finances.
Mr Speaker, with respect to Eastern Airways, the airline made a substantial loss on flying to Gibraltar last year. In our discussions with them earlier this year they suggested that the only way they could make the routes work was if the Government subsidized the operation. We took the prudent decision not to do so. We must respect their decision as commercially it does not work for them at the moment. I look forward to engaging with them later on this year.
Mr Speaker whilst it is disappointing, it is understandable that airlines need to protect their finances like any other business. Surely the spokesman for tourism understands this and this certainly is not the time to gloat and play politics at the expense of Gibraltar’s long term ambitions.
Mr Speaker, Gibraltar International Airport has seen continued growth in the area of Non-Scheduled Services over the past four years. Non-Scheduled Services comprise the full spectrum of aircraft movements that do not form part of the regular scheduled services occupied by airlines and are as varied as light General Aviation aircraft. Business and Corporate Charters and medium to large Private Aircraft operated by their owners.
2019 saw 401 aircraft operate into Gibraltar Airport, a 5.2% increase over 2018 where 381 operated. 2020 proved to be an extremely difficult year for scheduled services and the aviation industry in general, with air travel practically grinding to a halt worldwide. This resulted in non-scheduled services only dropping 2.5% to 391 annual movements.
The work done by the Government to recuperate our scheduled services in 2021 has clearly not affected this type of operation with an even higher increase of 19.9% in 2021 in comparison to 2020 and an annual record of 469 non-scheduled aircraft using Gibraltar Airport during the past year. A total of 3821 passengers flew on these flights and this also shows an increase of 4.4% over the 3659 carried in 2020.
The Summer Schedule for 2022 will at its height offer 39 weekly flights to 5 airports.
As the whole of the aviation industry slowly emerges from two years of considerable disruption, decline and loss of business, load factors for the first quarter 2022 were very positive as a direct result of the United Kingdom beginning to drop COVID-19 restrictions which led to more persons starting to travel. Also because of the Governments ongoing booster vaccination programme, combined with our marketing efforts, we were able to retain our core routes.
Mr Speaker, a very important operational factor has come about as a result of the Governments position with regards to the role of the Air Terminal during the Pandemic. The fact that no one involved in the operational aspects of the Air Terminal’s day to day running was furloughed has meant that members of staff employed in these organisations have continued with their mandatory training, competency and skill qualifications leading to the various compliance obligations being maintained and allowing a seamless transition to the return of normality.
This has not been the case in other airports, and Honourable Members will be familiar with the press reports recently where some airports are still facing major organisational hurdles in both recruiting and training, leading to major delays and very negative passenger experiences.
In addition to this, airlines are also struggling to recruit and retrain crews to cope with the expected surge and this may result in some minor amendments to the published flying programme on the days when they are faced with resource issues linked to this.
Mr Speaker, after Monarch’s demise, services to Manchester dropped to four flights per week. I have been trying to convince Easyjet to fly daily on this route and it was encouraging to see that they did so last summer.
I am pleased to announce that EasyJet has continued with the same frequency for this summer creating greater connectivity to the North West of the United Kingdom and bringing Gibraltar Airport back to the pre-pandemic levels of traffic to that area.
Mr Speaker, a new Captain of the Port and CEO of the Gibraltar Port Authority was appointed in January this year. Mr John Ghio was appointed following the retirement of Mr Manuel Tirado from the post. May I take this opportunity to once again congratulate John on his promotion to Captain and to thank Manolo for his support and to wish him an enjoyable and well deserved retirement.
I have no doubt that John will be an impressive Captain. We share the same level of ambition for our Port ad I look forward to working with him to make our Port even more successful.
The Port of Gibraltar has continued operations throughout the ups and downs of the COVID19 pandemic, in no small part because of the dedication of all parties involved to ensure that operations continued with as little interruption as possible, while always being mindful of the serious nature of the virus.
This is borne out by the level of activity for 2021 and in the early part of 2022. While some aspects of the maritime industry are only now starting to show recovery, other operations have either remained steady or bounced back and in some cases exceeded pre-pandemic levels. In fact, vessel calls into Gibraltar were up by 5.81% in 2021 against 2019 figures. Bunkering calls and volumes for 2021 against 2019 figures have also reflected a healthy bounce back despite the ongoing global impact of the pandemic on shipping in general with increases of 6.54% and 5.43% respectively.
LNG bunkering operations also took place during 2021 following Shell’s granting of a licence with 5 bunkering operations being undertaken. While demand is still on the low side, it is envisaged that we will start to see further increases in this activity especially in light of the global energy crisis versus the demand for this type of fuel, and is something which will also add to the port’s continued development in improving the environmental performance of shipping with Gibraltar continuing to lead the way in supporting the changeover to this fuel.
The Government is committed to achieving a net-zero strategy for our Port. This is a complex situation but we will continue consulting and working towards concrete solution.
Mr Speaker, we also saw the return of cruise calls in the latter part of 2021 and we are now anticipating that numbers for 2022 will almost match pre-pandemic levels. The cruising sector has taken a battering but we are now on our way to recovery. Mr Speaker as I have previously mentioned, this year we currently have 185 calls booked, only slightly down on pre-pandemic figures in 2019. We have done a lot of hard work behind the scenes over the last two years which is starting to bear fruit, as can be seen with the figures for 2022.
Yacht calls also reverted to healthy growth and reflected that Gibraltar has remained a Port of choice as well as necessity for the yachting community. This is borne out by an increase of over 15% in levels of activity for the first four months of 2022 against 2019 figures.
Mr Speaker, while Bunkering remains the mainstay of activity at the Port we are always looking for opportunities to increase the variety of services and business opportunities for the local maritime industry and I am pleased to report that potable water services are now available for vessels visiting Gibraltar Port, something which is very much welcomed by the maritime industry. This additional service adds further weight to the array of services already available at Gibraltar Port.
Mr Speaker, 2021 saw the return of London International Shipping Week. This was the first in-person event in the shipping calendar to take place since the start of the pandemic and Gibraltar’s presence was well received and offered the chance to re-engage with partners, stakeholders and potential clients. As part of our attendance to this event we hosted a reception for the industry at the IMO Headquarters, where I had the opportunity to meet the IMO Secretary General. It is notable that even at this level the performance of our maritime industry is recognized internationally as was reflected by the keen interest and awareness that Mr Kitack Lim showed of our port and contributions to the maritime industry.
London Shipping Week, also kick-started HM Government of Gibraltar’s maritime services marketing drive in 2021 which also saw the return of Maritime Week Gibraltar in November, the second event of its kind which showcased and promoted Gibraltar’s thriving maritime sector. Some international visitors were able to visit Gibraltar despite COVID-19 restrictions still impacting on travel with excellent feedback received from both local and international participants. The expectation is that this event will now form part of the shipping industry’s calendar of events moving forward and will be an ideal platform to promote Gibraltar’s maritime industry from a ‘home stage’ as it continues to develop and evolve.
Mr Speaker, in February representatives from Gibraltar’s Maritime industry attended the International Bunker Industry Association Annual Dinner in London. The Gibraltar delegation was led by John Ghio, the Captain of the Port. This event provided a fantastic opportunity to re-engage face to face with industry partners and to meet with current and prospective clients in the margins of this event.
Earlier this month, the Gibraltar Port Authority, along with other local stakeholders, Mr Speaker, attended Posidonia 2022 in Greece. This is the biggest shipping event in the international calendar and is a crucial forum at which we continued our engagement with the international shipping industry. I am delighted that we were joined by a number of sponsors from our local maritime community under the banner of ‘HM Government of Gibraltar Maritime Services’ and I am grateful for their participation. This shows the commitment of our partners and stakeholders in working together to promote Gibraltar Port.
These events form part of the Government’s strategy to directly engage with partners, stakeholders and prospective clients. Arrangements to hold bespoke events abroad later in the year, are in their early stages of planning, with the invaluable support from our partners in the local industry. I hope to make an announcement on this soon.
Mr Speaker, I now turn to the Port’s finances and report that for the financial year 2021/2022 – revenue received was £7,269,581 against the original budgeted figure of £7,872,000.
I am pleased to report that expenditure for the same period amounted to £6,830,741 allocated against a budget of £7,149,000 for the full period.
As for Capital Expenditure the Authority spent a total of £76,921 against an allocated figure of £365,000 – it should be noted that some of the projects planned were not realised due to the pandemic. However, we were able to improve some of the port’s infrastructure with spending on the completion of the internal refurbishment at the North Mole office. We also carried out feasibility and technical studies for both the North Mole fenders and Mid Harbour Marina project.
Mr Speaker, as reported at my last budget speech, both the senior management team and the Ministry for the Port continue to look at ways of further increasing activity in this sector and I am hopeful that I will be able to make some announcements on some of those projects in the not too distant future.
However, I am very pleased to report that works will shortly commence on the refurbishment and repairs of the Watergardens marina, a project which had previously been put on hold due to the pandemic. My team will be liaising with the users of the marina to manage the works and I am sure that the improvements to the infrastructure will be welcomed by the users of the marina.
Mr Speaker, 2021 also saw the UK being audited by the IMO under the IMO Member State Audit scheme for compliance of the IMO Instruments Implementation Code (III Code). Gibraltar being part of the UK flag, was audited in all three areas of responsibility i.e.: – Flag State, Port State GMA (Gibraltar Maritime Administration)) and Coastal State GPA (Gibraltar Port Authority). The very strong performance at this audit is a further measure of how proud we can be in the work that the Port Authority and Maritime Administration continue to deliver.
Mr Speaker, the Port of Gibraltar has shown its true worth to the community and economy during the pandemic – the Port has also been able to adapt to some of the initial challenges arising from Brexit and this has been, and will continue to be, down to the hard work, dedication and willingness to do whatever it takes from the whole of the port community in Gibraltar. Mr Speaker, we have all the right ingredients to make Gibraltar the Port of choice for doing business. During the next financial year, I intend to continue with my ambitious marketing strategy for our port as we focus on attracting new operations.
Finally, Mr Speaker, I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my excellent team at the Port Authority for their continuing efforts to deliver, this makes my role as Minister for the Port a lot easier.
Gibraltar Maritime Administration
Mr Speaker, I will now turn to the Gibraltar Maritime Administration (GMA).
A new Maritime Administrator, Dylan Cocklan, was appointed in October 2021. Mr. Cocklan has been in the Department for twenty-two years and undertaken a number of different roles. May I take this opportunity to once again congratulate Dylan on his appointment.
This past year has been another challenging year for the GMA, as the uncertainties of the ongoing BREXIT negotiations, have continued to impact on our new ship registrations, however the Yacht Register remains largely unaffected by BREXIT and the Small Ship Register also continues to grow as per the trend in recent years.
The fleet size on the 01 May 2022 was 165 ships, 883 yachts, and 317 Small Ships registered in Gibraltar. The total combined tonnage of the Gibraltar fleet was 1,206,130 Gross Tons.
Our registers continue to rank highly in its overall technical performance levels within the major Memorandum of Understandings on port state control, and as quality registers by the United States Coastguard in their ‘USCG Qualship 21’ system. Gibraltar is one of the twenty-three Administrations having met all the requirements for full participation in the QUALSHIP 21 programme.
The Gibraltar Ship Register has retained its ‘White List’ status worldwide. This was reflected within the annual International Chamber of Shipping’s (ICS’s) ‘Flag State Performance Table’ for 2022. Once again, the Gibraltar Ship and Yacht Registries, rated in the table with positive performance indicators in every aspect reviewed by the ICS. The indicators include the performance of the Administration, ratification of International Conventions, completed ILO reports, attendance at IMO meetings and participation in the UN International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Instruments Implementation Code (III Code) member audit scheme.
Importantly, following on from last year’s III Code audit by the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) on Gibraltar, the United Kingdom flag state, which includes the Red Ensign Group (REG), of which Gibraltar is a Category 1 register, was audited by the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO) in October 2021. The eleven-day long audit was carried out from 14 to 28 October 2021. It was the first time such an audit had been carried out remotely by the IMO because of the ongoing challenges of COVID-19.
The audit scrutinised how the UK and the REG Administrations meets its flag, coastal and port state obligations. The GMA was audited on its flag state and port state obligations.
Mr. Speaker I am pleased to announce that the audit culminated with no findings being raised against the GMA. In particular, the auditors assigned by the IMO praised the manner in which the UK/REG oversees and manages the delegation of statutory work to its recognised organisations.
In addition to the III Code, the GMA successfully retained its ISO 9001:2015 quality accreditation having successfully completed three ISO external audits by SGS since July 2021. Maintaining ISO accreditation not only sends a message to stakeholders that the GMA operates robust quality management systems, but also reinforces the GMA’s commitment to continuously improve and seek efficiencies in the work the Department undertakes.
These achievements are testament to the hard work undertaken by the staff at the GMA.
The goals of the GMA are to reach pre-BREXIT and pre-pandemic levels in terms of fleet size and revenue levels within the next five years. Through controlled growth, the GMA would still be able to operate a registry that is run with high standards, be able to meet its duties and responsibilities, be able to maintain the quality of its registered fleet, and focus on maintaining its good reputation within the industry. The Department has also identified areas in which it can generate savings and other areas where expenditure can be reduced.
The GMA continues to explore new avenues to diversify its fleet and increase registered tonnage. As part of this work, the GMA has recently undertaken a thorough review of its fees structure. The result has been the development of new products and incentives which will add to the Registers competitiveness and attractiveness in the global market.
A consultation process was launched and completed in April during which the GMA engaged openly with and sought the views from its clients and stakeholders on the new fees and incentives. The fees and services restructure came into effect on 1st June 2022 and introduced an increase in fees across all services, an inflationary yearly increase to all existing fees charged by the registry, a simplified new product pricing for Annual Tonnage Tax, discounts of up to 50% on Annual Tonnage Tax payable for multiple ships registered, introduction of annual tonnage tax for large commercial yachts and discounts for “Green ships”. The principle behind the “Green Ship” discount scheme is to reward ship owners who voluntarily adopt ship designs that exceed environmental regulatory standards set by the UN International Maritime Organisation (IMO). Discounts are also offered for vessels employing “Green ship” technologies and systems.
Mr Speaker, in line with the Government’s policy on digitalisation and as part of its commitment to client product developments, the GMA transitioned to electronic certification for its ships and seafarers on the 04 April 2022. The Administration is now able to offer their clients statutory certificates that meet the requirements of the standards of the United Nations International Maritime Organisation’s Guidelines for the Use of Electronic Certificates.
The introduction of electronic certification will benefit GMA’s clients by providing improved traceability, enhanced security and a quicker means of dispatching documentation. The authenticity and validity of certificates can be obtained via a 24/7 online portal, using a two means verification embedded within the certificate.
Mr Speaker, this move towards digitalisation will directly benefit GMA’s clients.
The GMA is continuing to invest in systems and technology which will further enhance the quality of service provided by the GMA. This includes the provision of a cloud based GMA/client interface portal for survey related functions and new improved online service via improvements to its website. The aforementioned improvements are expected to be launched by the end of July 2022.
As part of its marketing campaign, the GMA has exhibited at the Posidonia 2022 shipping exhibition in Athens and will be participating at the Monaco boat show in September. Posidonia offered the GMA direct access not only to Greek ship owners, the largest ship owning nation, but also to international ship owners and industry leaders. In addition, the GMA visited existing and potential new clients together with local representatives.
Mr. Speaker, working closely with other local authorities and local stakeholders, the GMA is looking forward to marketing and promoting its new incentives and products at upcoming events and during planned visits to existing and potential clients in the next few months.
During 2021, the department attended the London International Shipping Week. The Maritime Administrator also attended the International Bunker Industry Association (IBIA) annual dinner in London hosted by the Gibraltar Port Authority. The GMA staff took advantage of these opportunities to engage face to face/in person with existing and potential new clients as well as other industry stakeholders.
The GMA also participated in the very successful Maritime Week Gibraltar at the end of November 2021. During the event, the GMA staff delivered a presentation on the Department’s ship/yacht registration, which was aimed at providing an insight on the Gibraltar Registries, local ship registration legislation and requirements, the registration process and the unique advantages Gibraltar has to offer.
Mr. Speaker, in addition to marketing visits, the GMA will also be taking part in the annual Red Ensign Group Conference, which will take place in July 2022 in the Isle of Man. The conference gives members the opportunity to have detailed face-to-face discussions on current matters that are of interest to the group, the chance to share best practice, look at ways of improving the performance of the British Register, both in terms of commercial success and also in setting exemplary standards in meeting international obligations.
Earlier during the year, the Maritime Administrator and Chief Surveyor joined other Technical experts from across the REG, in the REG Technical Forum in February 2022. In addition, the GMA also participated in the different REG technical working group meetings. The Forum and associated working group meetings, support the REG conference and look at how best to make sure there is consistent application of technical policy across the British fleet. The Technical forum is responsible for developing new technical standards for the maritime industry.
Despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic, the GMA has continued to undertake port state control inspections on foreign flagged ships visiting Gibraltar and inspections of vessels operating domestically. In addition, it has continued with its monitoring programme of Recognised Organisations (RO) and Certifying Authorities (CAs). This is an important aspect of the work done by the GMA as it ensures that statutory survey and certification work delegated to the accepted Recognised Organisations (RO) and Certifying Authorities (CA) is conducted in compliance with agreed standards.
Importantly, as from April and as a result of the improved situation in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, GMA surveyors have resumed audits and surveys of clients abroad. This is important for ensuring effective jurisdiction and control over our fleet in terms of quality standards, but is also essential for keeping a close relationship with our clients. The resumption of surveys abroad, will also increase the Department’s survey/certification fees revenue.
Mr. Speaker, the GMA Seafarer’s Division continues to issue a significant number of seafarer documentation. Since 01 July 2021 until the 30 April 2022, the GMA has issued a total of 1097 certificates. This is a very important task, since the quality of the officers and crew determine to a very large extent the safety and marine environmental protection standards on board the Gibraltar fleet.
As part of its work to become more competitive in relation to seafarers, the GMA has recently expanded it’s ‘Recognised Countries’ Standards of Training, Certification and Watch keeping list – meaning that the GMA now recognises Certificates of Competency (CoCs) from a wider range of countries. Twenty-three countries have recently been added, meaning CoC’s from these countries are now eligible for a Gibraltar endorsement. The total number of Recognised Countries currently now stands at seventy-six, giving our clients greater flexibility in their crewing options.
Within the upcoming year, the GMA once again is expected to host surveyors from other REG members for the purpose of providing them with training and sharing of expertise with regard to Port State Control. The GMA is regarded as a leader within the REG in relation to this field and during the past few years the GMA has provided training for surveyors from Cayman Islands, Guernsey, Bermuda, Isle of Man and UK.
Locally, the GMA continues to provide technical support to the Gibraltar Port Authority and Gibraltar enforcement authorities via a framework by way of survey and certification. Members of the GMA provided technical support and were part of the multi-agency team that brought about the successful prosecution case against the AM GHENT following the oil spill that took place in the Bay of Gibraltar on October 2021 during a bunkering operation.
The GMA also continues to work closely with the Gibraltar Law Office in ensuring Gibraltar is in a position to implement and enforce the provisions of new International instruments through appropriate Gibraltar Merchant Shipping legislation. Work is currently underway in relation to the Ballast Water Management Convention and the latest amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention.
The GMA continues to have a crucial role within the Gibraltar maritime industry. Through its role as an international facilitator of trade, its highly rated and competitive Registers and global trading fleet, the GMA provides Gibraltar with a significant advantage over many other maritime centers. The GMA’s strategy over the next few years is to continue to maintain its high quality of service, increase the size and diversity of its fleet and to continue to add significant expertise and skills to the wider Gibraltar maritime industry and its profile as an international center of maritime excellence.
Mr Speaker, Brexit has created a challenge but I am keen on marketing the Flag with its new products and incentives so we may be in a position to attract new clients to the Registry and will market the Registry more aggressively over the coming months.
Mr Speaker, I would like to thank Dylan Cocklan and his staff at the GMA for their support over the last year.
Mr Speaker, I turn to my responsibilities for the Royal Gibraltar Post Office. I would like to commence by saying that I am very pleased that despite the numerous logistical challenges in the past 12 to 24 months, the Post Office has managed to offer an uninterrupted service to all the 192 Universal Postal Union member countries throughout for parcels and letters. Furthermore, local delivery service continued six days per week Monday to Saturday.
Many business and residential consumers within Gibraltar rely on the Royal Gibraltar Post Office (RGPO) as the universal postal service provider for their standard local and international letter and parcel post services. Therefore, to meet a sufficiently high standard service for users is of significant importance.
At the height of the pandemic, staffing levels were affected by staff absences due to Covid sicknesses and self-isolations. Nevertheless, the RGPO delivered 87.69% of local mail within two working days. Towards the end of 2021, the RGPO saw steady improvements in its performance with the resumption of regular flights from the U.K. Because of this, its international next day delivery performance reached (84.5%) in December 2021, (88.3%) in January 2022, (97.5%) in February 2022 and (75.3%) in March 2022.
Mr Speaker a clear direction has been established in order to build upon the work commenced during the RGPO review in 2019 and this has already led to noticeable performance improvements and financial savings. The RGPO saved £172,195 in its expenditure budget for the financial year 2021/2022 and further savings are expected during the financial year 2022/2023 thanks to the modernisation of the RGPO’s systems and procedures that have created operational efficiencies.
The electronic parcel notification system has gradually replaced the old and costly printed notification cards format, with over 9,800 residents registered to receive notifications via SMS and email. During the financial year 2021/2022, 33,563 “first notice” electronic notifications were sent to recipients. This operational advantage of switching to electronic notifications has hugely reduced costs on paper, ink and deliveries and has in turn, played a part in improving the environment.
We continue to see a substantial volume of incoming parcels due to the continuous growth of ecommerce purchases with 110,000 parcels registered in EPOST since its launch over a year ago. All incoming and outgoing mail in Gibraltar is now processed electronically via the International Postal System (IPS), which provides the RGPO an accurate and comprehensive data of its mail movement, covering every point between origin and destination. The online EPOST system offers a delivery option to recipients on payment of any applicable fees / duties to which our Postal workers delivered 6023 parcels in the past financial year. The Parcel Post Office Mail Centre collected a total of £224,086 revenue in fees and import duties during the financial year 2021/2022.
Mr Speaker, although letter volumes have generally declined over the years, new residential developments have grown substantially in Gibraltar during the same period thus increasing the number of individual addresses. In September 2021 the postal walks system that had remained the same for the past twenty-five years was modified, in consultation with the Unions and RGPO staff, by increasing the standard 13 delivery walks to 17 delivery walks in order to accommodate the growth of new addresses. The RGPO delivers letters to any address in Gibraltar six days a week for the same rate, be it in Main Street or the Top of the Rock.
Mr Speaker, the Universal Postal Union (UPU) announced new regulatory changes as from the 1st January 2021. This meant that it is now a requirement to provide electronic pre-advice customs data (also known as electronic advance data or EAD) on all parcel items containing goods or merchandise to international destinations. These changes also came into effect on 1st April 2021 for parcel items containing goods or merchandise sent to the United Kingdom. Letter mail formats containing letters, cards and/or documents were not affected by this new requirement. As a member of the Universal Postal Union (UPU), the RGPO was bound by the new regulations imposed upon all member countries and their postal authorities. This pre-advice data helps to automate and speed up manual processes, which enables a more efficient customer clearance process. The RGPO created a new app and provided a custom declaration option available on the website and at the Main Street Post Office to make the process of sending parcels as easy as possible for its customers.
Mr Speaker, in March, the RGPO supported all Gibraltar residents with relatives and friends in Ukraine including individuals, charities and schools, by waiving postage charges for mail addressed to Ukraine. Communicating with friends and families during difficult moments is crucial and the RGPO will do everything that it can to help. We continue to do everything possible to show our support and we are grateful to the Ukraine Postal Service (Ukrposhta) for making a special mention of our charitable support on their website.
Mr. Speaker, in addition to the regular meetings that take place between the RGPO management and its Royal Mail counterparts, the Director of Postal Services took part in Small Postal Administrations Forum held in Malta in May of this year. This was a unique event especially designed for CEOs and postal leaders in smaller jurisdictions to hear and share latest ideas, best practices and innovative approaches. It is an opportunity to learn from colleagues facing the same challenges and to discuss important topics such as the effects of COVID, Terminal Due revenues, bi-lateral agreements and direct postal service links. The conference gives members the opportunity to have detailed face-to-face discussions.
Finally, I would like to highlight how pleased I am for the total replacement of all Royal Gibraltar Post Office vehicles to brand new electric vehicles back in December 2020. This project was in line with the Government’s Manifesto commitment for a Green Gibraltar. The all-electric postal vans now deliver mail across all areas of Gibraltar safely and efficiently in the most environmentally friendly way possible whilst reducing carbon emissions and noise. It gives me a lot of joy and satisfaction to see the red electric postal vehicles operating on deliveries around Gibraltar.
As the Minister with responsibilities for Postal Services, it is my obligation to ensure that efficient and reliable postal services is provided both within Gibraltar and between Gibraltar and the rest of the world. My thanks go to all the teams at the RGPO, ably lead by Glendon Martinez, HM Customs and our logistics partners for their continuous hard work during the course of this year.
Office of Fair Trading
Mr Speaker, I turn now to the Office of Fair Trading. I was the Minister responsible for the OFT up to the recent reshuffle in April where responsibility was handed over to my colleague and friend Samantha Sacramento for the reason set out by the Chief Minister when he announced the reshuffle.
I shall deal with each of its core responsibilities in turn, starting with Business Licensing.
Over the course of the past financial year the Business Licensing team has seen a significant increase in number of business licence applications it has received. A huge 935 business licence application notices have been published, representing a 31% increase compared to the financial year ending 2021. Applications processed per week by the team have therefore increased from 14 applications per week to 18 applications per week on average, with a maximum of 32 application received in a single week.
During this past year, the office has issued 501 new licences, representing an approximate increase in licences of 25% based on renewal data for that same period (2,335). This, Mr Speaker, is a great indicator that Gibraltar business is flourishing despite significant Covid-19 and Brexit-related uncertainties and that the Gibraltarian entrepreneurial spirit continues to show resilience in adversity.
Given the increase in workloads represented by these increases the Government has invested in IT upgrades for the office to allow the OFT to modernise its internal processes and databases to create a modern and fit for purpose software package that will allow the team to provide a quicker and more efficient service to the business community.
Turning to the OFT’s consumer protection responsibilities Mr Speaker, the Consumer Protection team has processed 374 complaints of reported harm to consumers in Gibraltar during the past financial year. Of these 75 have led to investigations carried out by the team.
These high numbers of complaints are largely a reflection of the success of the OFT’s consumer awareness programme which continues into 2022. The programme aims to educate local consumers about their consumer rights and businesses to understand their rights and responsibilities. Awareness has been raised about wide-ranging subjects such as distance contracts, rental deposits, second hand cars and toy safety, with particular emphasis on the dangers to children of button cell batteries, magnets and flammable costumes.
The team have also continually updated its awareness on travelling in the post-covid ‘new normal’ to reflect ongoing changes that affect consumers. As a result, the team have extensively engaged with, and issued guidance to, businesses within the travel sector. The OFT also assisted a local consumer in pursuit of a successful claim through the Small Claims Track of the Supreme Court against local travel agent arising from the cancellation of a package holiday due to Covid-related travel restrictions.
This year the OFT has also issued the new Code of Conduct for the Retailers of Goods in March which will serve as best practice guidance for businesses that retail in goods to ordinary end consumers. The code provides clarity for both businesses and consumers should disputes arise from purchases, including expected redress and timeframes.
As part of its ongoing inspections programme, the team has carried out 53 visits to local businesses, including follow up visit to ensure compliance of identified shortcomings, e.g. pricing of goods.
Fair Trading Bill (2020)
Mr Speaker, I can confirm that the Government continues to work with the OFT on the Fair Trading Bill (2020) with the aim of producing a more appropriate and mature framework within which the OFT can operate. The Bill will make the establishment of new businesses easier and quicker by simplifying the business licensing process. It shall therefore drastically improve the manner in which the OFT can provide its services to the public. At the same time the new Bill will protect consumers in Gibraltar and allow the OFT to set trading standards for businesses operating in Gibraltar.
As always, this process continues to be done in consultation with the Gibraltar Federation of Small Businesses and the Chamber of Commerce to ensure that it will support the business community in Gibraltar. The document is practically in final form pending clarity on some important issues before it is ready to be presented to this House.
Finally, Mr Speaker I wish to thank Francis Muscat, Audisa Rodriguez and the rest of the team at the OFT for their support whilst I had Ministerial responsibility for them.
Moving on to other business related matters, Mr Speaker, in December 2021, I introduced an all women Small Business Board, the aim of which is to assist and foster positive development of businesses locally. The board consists of representatives of the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce, the Gibraltar Federation of Small Businesses in addition to a cross section of local business women.
I am absolutely delighted with this, business is not only about businessmen. We have some excellent entrepreneurial women in Gibraltar and this is proof of that. I wanted to show our women the respect they deserve, especially at this important juncture of our economic development. This is the second business board that I have appointed and I look forward to working with them for the good of our business community and Gibraltar as a whole.
Mr Speaker, the Business Improvement Districts Act 2021 was passed by the Parliament on May 2021 and brought into operation together with the Business Improvement Districts Regulations 2021 on the 8th July 2021.
Honourable members will recall that a business improvement district is a defined area within which businesses are required to pay a levy to fund projects within the district’s boundaries. The Main Street and surround BID is managed by businesses, for the businesses and has the full support of the GFSB and the Chamber of Commerce, Hindu Community of Gibraltar, Gibraltar Law Council as well as numerous other interest groups and associations.
In September last year, the voting process began for businesses to decide on whether they wanted to form part of the BID scheme.
On 1st October, the results of the ballot were announced. Of the 291 votes cast, 192 businesses voted in favour which represented 66% of businesses backing the scheme, consequently the scheme was launched.
The BID project will bring life to the town centre for tourists and locals alike. This is an exciting time. The BID Company who will be managing the BID project is a ‘not for profit’ company, limited by guarantee, and governed by a Board of Directors who will be directly accountable to BID levy payers and responsible for delivering the BID projects and services and maintaining the BID objectives.
- Direct and deliver over £4,000,000 of investment over the next five years;
- Carry out exciting projects and events to drive footfall and spend in the town area, raise its profile, help its continued recovery and develop its position as a vibrant destination for local residents and visitors alike;
- Give businesses the support they need to flourish by driving down business costs, providing business development opportunities, being a strong voice, championing their interests;
- Improve the trading environment, making our town area a better place for everyone to do business, as well as a better place for locals and tourists to enjoy.
Mr Speaker, we need to keep people in Main Street and the surrounds. This will bring optimism and confidence to our small business sector and I am excited to be working with this energetic and enthusiast task force team/ BID Company to help them bring them the much needed success they deserve.
I was delighted to be part of the official launch on Tuesday.
Mr Speaker, my Ministry is a strategic partner of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC). As Honourable members are aware a CWEIC Gibraltar Office was opened last year to assist strategic partners to establish, develop and sustain a network of productive relationships across the Commonwealth’s Global business ecosystem in order to enable sustainable business growth.
In January, I formed part of a delegation, which included Members of Parliament from the United Kingdom, on a trade Mission to Bangladesh. Meetings were arranged with the Bangladesh Government including the foreign Minister, the Minister for the Environment and the Minister for Economic Affairs. There were also separate meetings with private sector investors, businesses leaders and industrialists. Mr Speaker, it is clear that there are opportunities in many areas that are relevant to Gibraltar like commerce and in financial services and I look forward to further engagement with those that I met to establish whether there is scope for them to do business with Gibraltar.
Mr Speaker, I look forward to further collaboration with CWEIC and take this opportunity to thank them and in particular the previous CEO Samantha Cohen, for including Gibraltar as part of their delegation to Bangladesh.
Mr Speaker, I continue to meet regularly with the Chamber of Commerce and Gibraltar Federation of Small Business. My doors are always open to them and I look forward to working closely with them over the next year.
Mr Speaker the Government announced in March additional financial support measures for the catering sector. The Government has consistently assisted and supported the Catering Association throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic. The support package aimed a mitigating some of the reduced business the catering sector experienced following Public Health Guidance issued on 18 November 2021. The support package included a rent moratorium; rates discounts and the waiver of all registration fees at the Employment Department.
Mr Speaker, I beg your indulgence, but before finishing my contribution, let me start by saying how very disappointed I am with the Opposition Tourism spokesman the Hon Damon Bossino, who has during the last year, played politics with tourism.
In an attempt to grab headlines and to make himself relevant, the Hon Member has been constantly nit picking on almost everything the Government does. Whilst the Hon Member is perfectly entitled to have a different opinion, it seems that he just criticises for the sake of criticisng and has not been able to come to terms with the fact that he is not the Minister for Tourism. We have been elected to implement and develop our own policies and implement our programme for Government in accordance with our own views and assessments, and not with the policies of the Opposition. What is remarkable is the arrogance with which the Hon Member approaches his role as a member of Opposition pretending to be able to make policy in the areas he shadows. Mr Speaker, I can go on and on but I can assure this House and those listening to these proceedings that whilst the Hon Member plays politics, I will not be detracted from getting on with the serious business of Government which is what I was elected for.
Mr Speaker, I would like to thank my friends, the Honourable the Chief Minister and the Honourable the Deputy the Chief Minister. I couldn’t do this job without their support. They have always been there for me, I will never forget that, thank you. All my ministerial colleagues too, thank you.
My Ministry team, of course, efficiently led by John Reyes. Each and every one of them, they are an amazing team and I am lucky to have them working with me. Hardworking, loyal, ready to do more and always ready to help me. Apologies for putting up with my demands at all hours, my WhatsApps, my emails etc. They know they don’t need to reply at these hours but they do, because they care. They understand that I want everything done yesterday and they respect that. Last but not least, I want to thank Tracey Poggio for assisting me from the London Office in my tourism endeavours. A heartfelt thanks to all of you, you are all a very special bunch.
And finally Mr Speaker, thank you and the Parliament staff, you are the key people to our democracy and Parliament wouldn’t work without you.
Mr Speaker, thank you.